How to get the job done when working from home

Updated on 08 May 2019

Swapping your commute to work within your own four walls can help with the Monday blues, but will you be climbing those same walls by Friday? Sue Hayward shares her tips for working from home.

Boom in number of people working from home

I’ve been freelancing for years and absolutely love it, but let’s be clear on this, ‘working from home’ is no holiday.

It’s ‘work’ and the way I choose to earn a crust to pay the mortgage, bills and fund my travel passion.

And I’m not alone.

The number of people working from home has nearly doubled over the last 10 years to 1.54 million according to the Office for National Statistics.  

Working from home doesn’t mean rolling out of bed at midday, grabbing a coffee and sending a few emails before heading off to the pub or watching a good boxset ­– well not on a regular basis anyway!

This just won’t cut it when it comes to bringing in the cold hard cash and you’ve got to be disciplined and set some rules if you want to make it work.

Keep a separate ‘work’ phone

My first tip is having a separate office phone; whether that’s a landline, mobile or both.

In the early days, I used the same number for home and work, and when my daughter was small, I lost count of the times I was cooking her tea, only to pick up the phone and discover it was a work call.

Often it was someone asking if I’d seen their press release, whether I’d like to meet one of their clients or maybe a minor query about a feature I’d filed.  

All this is fine if you’re sat at your desk, but if you’re caught short and trying to sound professional while distracted, it’s slightly tricky.

So, I’ve now got separate phones which makes it easier to ‘switch off’ after work or on holiday.

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Woman working from home. Image: Shutterstock.

Have a dress code

There’s no law to say you can’t spend all day in your PJs although I never feel in ‘work mode’ unless I’m up, dressed, and sat at my desk.   

If you’re used to office life, then spending the best part of the day in your dressing gown may seem a novelty, but does it really put you in the right frame of mind for work?  

I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve spend the day working from my bed, and it’s only when I’ve been ill, as us freelancers don’t get company sick pay.

Unfortunately, laptops and duvets don’t mix well and who wants their laptop packing up and overheating?

Are you a freelancer? Check out our essential tips, from finding work to paying tax

Set a routine

This may sound strange as surely the whole point is ditching the ‘routine’ of office life for a more flexible approach.

But without any kind of regular routine, it’s easy to procrastinate to the point when the thought of cleaning the kitchen floor can seem far more appealing than opening your laptop and logging on.

I’m lucky enough to have a separate ‘office’ at home, (previously our spare room), but am now fully kitted out with my desk, filing cabinets and all things work-related.

I always aim to be at my desk by 9am and by having a separate office, it’s much easier to leave work behind at the end of the day.

Ditch the distractions

There are no office colleagues to distract you but working from home can mean everyone else sees you as being 'available'.

Being a ‘good neighbour’ and receiving parcels is all well and good, but after being interrupted three times in the same day with requests to take in parcels and then subsequent calls as everyone collects them, I made a rule to ignore unexpected knocks at the door if I’m really busy or on deadline.  

Working from home. Image: Shutterstock.

Stave off cabin fever

A bit of chatter on Twitter isn’t the same as catching up with colleagues and sometimes it’s great to head out to a local coffee shop for a change of scenery.

Unfortunately, this can be a drain on your finances if you do it on a regular basis and spend most of your working day there.

If I’m having a day at my desk, I always head out for a lunchtime walk to clear my head and regularly head into London for work events where I can catch up with several people in one trip.

I know a four-day week could work - I do it myself already

Make sure you switch off

This can be harder if you work for a company rather than being freelance, as there may be pressure to finish a project or answer emails on holiday.

As I’ve no boss to ask, I can take a holiday when I like, but on the flipside, there’s the niggling fear of missing out on work once you hit your ‘out of office’ auto reply.

If you’re on holiday, enjoy it, and think twice before you flick through emails while having a coffee at a beach taverna, or the day before coming home.

I’ve done it and there’s always the danger that just one niggling query or email will transport you back into ‘work mode’ and ruin your holiday bubble.

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